The other day, we went to a local Italian restaurant, and one of the specials was
manicotti (misspelled "mannicotti"), and it had been a while since we had this
dish, so Carol ordered it.
It was awful.
So I dug into my archives and pulled out one of our old favorites to undo the damage to
our memories. In Italy, manicotti is an elegant dish: pasta tubes stuffed with ricotta
cheese and spinach and topped with a garlicky marinara sauce. In the U.S., it's lasagne
ingredients remolded into stuffed pasta tubes, frequently confused with the smaller cannelloni which are from northern
Italy and use a bechamel sauce.
You can't make manicotti noodles at home unless you have an extruder, but you roll the
filling in lasagne noodles if you like.
*Prep 15 minutes*
*Cook 1 hour*
1 lb fresh spinach, sautéed
Kosher salt, plus ½ t
12 manicotti shells
3 c marinara sauce, recipe follows
1½ c ricotta cheese (about 1 lb)
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz)
1 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese or a mixture of half Pecorino and
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper
2 t unsalted butter, diced
Sauté the spinach according to Rick's recipe. Drain and squeeze the excess
water from the spinach, and finely chop.
Cook the pasta shells until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain
and pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cover the bottom of a 9x13-inch ovenproof baking dish with 1 c of the
marinara sauce. In a medium mixing bowl, evenly combine the ricotta,
mozzarella, and 1/3 cup of the Parmesan, the eggs, and the spinach. Season
with the ½ t salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste. Spoon the cheese mixture
into the manicotti shell and line them up in the baking dish. Cover with the
remaining sauce. Scatter the remaining cheese on top and dot with the
butter. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
¼ medium onion, diced (about 3 T)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3½ c whole, peeled, canned tomatoes in puree, (one 28-oz can), roughly
Sprig of fresh thyme
Sprig of fresh basil
2 t kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and
garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes
and the herb sprigs and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered,
for 10 minutes.
Remove and discard the herb sprigs. Stir in the salt and season with pepper
to taste. Use now, or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or
freeze for up to 2 months.
Yield: 3½ c
Copyright 2001 Television Food Network, G.P. All rights reserved.